In the Buddha’s Words is, as the subtitle states, An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon. Edited and introduced by Bhikku Bodhi, and with a Foreword by the Dalai Lama, this weighty volume from the Teachings of the Buddha series serves as an ideal book for anyone who wants to begin studying the suttas and could benefit from a helping hand. It provides a wonderful overview of the Buddha’s teaching in his own words, and with copious helpful notes from Bhikku Bodhi, ensuring that readers are able to understand the context of what they read in and actually start applying the teachings to their own lives.
Bhikku Bodhi provides a General Introduction to the book as a whole, and then a separate introduction to each of the ten chapters that follow. These introductions are incredibly helpful, and would be well worth reading even without the discourses that follow, but when they are read – as intended – as appetizers for the Buddha’s words that come next, their effectiveness is quite remarkable.
The ten chapters in this book focus on ten distinct themes, as follows:
The Human Condition
The Bringer of Light
Approaching the Dharma
The Happiness Visible in the Present Life
The Way to a Fortunate Rebirth
Defining One’s Perspective on the World
The Path to Liberation
Mastering the Mind
Shining the Light of Wisdom
The Planes of Realization
Whilst it would be perfectly possible to extract a great deal of value from this book by turning to any chapter that takes your interest, working through the chapters in the order presented would probably be a better approach, at least for the first reading. We say that because Bhikku Bodhi’s introductions are presented in a logical order and actually build on one another, so if you take a similarly linear approach to begin with you will have no trouble keeping up with the subject matter of the discourses themselves.
We strongly recommend this book to anyone who wants to begin a serious study of the Buddha’s words, and those who wish to continue can easily do so with other volumes in the Teachings of the Buddha series, such as The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha and The Long Discourses of the Buddha (reviews of these coming soon).